Spanish Operators Joyn Up for Free Calls and Texts

Spain’s three largest mobile operators have launched a cross-device messaging and calls app licensed by the GSMA, joyn, to tempt cash-strapped consumers back onto mainstream services.

Telefonica’s Movistar, Orange and Vodafone are losing out as platforms like WhatsApp, Viber and Skype, with free calling and messaging capabilities, become more popular in the country where one in four people is out of work.

According to the Spanish telecoms regulator, the number of paid-for texts sent dropped by 4m in Q2 2012, from 1.9bn to 1.5 bn, while WhatsApp has become the top selling app in the App Store.

Telefonica and Vodafone have also lost huge numbers of customers since they stopped subsiding the cost of smartphones. The operators are now keen to improve relations with their customer-based, even if they are losing money.

The app, which is initially available on Android and will launch for the iPhone soon, automatically identifies contacts using joyn on any device or network. Users can exchange free chat messages with embedded videos and pictures, make calls or share other files. joyn is also being pre-loaded onto new handsets.

It is already available from individual operators in Germany and the US. Spain is the first country in the world to offer it cross-network, with a full launch in Germany expected later this year and several other European countries in 2013.

Additional VOIP or IP-video call services will be introduced in the future, which operators may charge for.

“This initial implementation of a new technology clearly required a major effort and strong leadership in the alignment of the ecosystem of manufacturers, developers and integrators, and operators,” said Michael O’Hara, CMO GSMA. Consumers across the world will benefit from the leading efforts of these three operators in Spain.”

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